Abnormally high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia is a well-known characteristic of diabetes and obesity. Recently, researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London in the UK have published a new molecular study, which reveals for the first time that high blood sugar damages an important enzyme associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study titled Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer’s Disease appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.
The findings of this study show that high blood sugar causes damage to macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) – an enzyme that plays an important role in immune function and insulin regulation. MIF is involved with how the immune system responds in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain-wasting disease that erodes people’s ability to remember, think, perform daily tasks, and lead an independent life. Among older adults, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a condition that affects 46 million people worldwide. In India, more than 4 million people have some form of dementia.
Experts believe the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease starts 10 years or more before the cognitive decline becomes apparent. One of the main changes occurring in the brain while the person appears perfectly normal is the accumulation of abnormal proteins into toxic plaques and tangles, causing once-healthy cells to stop working, lose connections with other cells, and die.
Scientists already knew that glucose and its metabolic byproducts can damage proteins through a reaction called glycation, which has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and is a known feature of the hyperglycemia induced by diabetes. But before this new study was published they did not understand the specific molecular link between excess glucose and Alzheimer’s.
For the new study, the researchers used a sensitive technique to detect glycation in brain samples from people with and without Alzheimer’s disease. The team found evidence that the enzyme MIF undergoes glycation damage in the early stages of the disease. It also seems that the extent of MIF glycation increases as the disease progresses.
MIF is involved in how brain cells called glia respond to the buildup of the abnormal proteins during Alzheimer’s disease. The study shows that after glycation, MIF can no longer stimulate glial cells, whose work is to prevent the accumulation of faulty proteins in the brain. As Alzheimer’s progresses, glycation of MIF increases, further contributing to the damage. This could be the tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.
Excess sugar is well known to be harmful to the human body causing diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling sugar intake in our diets.
In addition to modifying your diet and cutting out added sugars from your food, please visit a doctor to get yourself tested if you have a family history of diabetes or high blood sugar.
Use the tips provided below to make lifestyle changes that will help you manage your blood sugar and live a healthier, happier life.